Consumers can donate hotel reward points to wounded warriors and their families starting today.
The "Hotels for Heroes" program, created by bipartisan federal legislation passed in December, is designed to defray travel costs of wounded veterans being treated by the military health system and family and friends visiting them.
Six hotel chains are participating, including Marriott, Wyndham, AmericInn and Best Western. Choice Hotels is allowing guests to convert their reward points to cash donations, while Starwood Hotels has donated corporate reward points to start the program.
The legislation was written by Sen. Ben Cardin and Congressman C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, both Maryland Democrats. The program will be administered by Fisher House, a non-profit group that opens its homes to military families visiting injured family members at hospitals across the country.
"Hotels for Heroes" is modeled after the national "Hero Miles" program, which was created by Ruppersberger and offers free round-trip airfare to wounded veterans traveling to receive care through the military health system, as well as to friends and family visiting them. Flights are made possible by donations of frequent flyer miles.
At an event Monday to unveil the hotel program, the Maryland lawmakers said the program was designed to help families such as Staff Sergeant Charles "Chaz" Allen, who lost both legs after stepping on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in January 2011, and his wife, Jessica Allen. She used "Hero Miles" to travel between Tennessee and Walter Reed Army Medical Center to visit her husband, but she had to stay at a local hotel until space was available at the nearby Fisher House.
"The family members of our wounded heroes should never have to stress about the financial burden of travel," David Coker, president of the Fisher House Foundation, said Monday in a statement.